Creativity: The Magic Sauce

A certain ‘je ne sais quois’

For an agency, creativity is the magic sauce – it can be hard for a business to pinpoint exactly, but it’s absence is often glaring. We define this as ‘the use of imagination or original ideas to create something; inventiveness’. But what can companies do to help boost this, and what are the benefits?

“Creativity is an agency’s intellectual property. It has intrinsic and financial value.”

Kevin Swanepoel, CEO of The One Club for Creativity

A creative agency’s core mission is to provide solutions for a business’ needs. This may be to convey a message, to create a lasting brand impression, or simply to reach out and engage with consumers. Creativity is vital here in order to solve these problems.

ROI – R U sure?

So, we’re agreed – yay for creativity! But looking at how the numbers back this up can be tricky – mainly because there are different ways to define creativity into measurable metrics, but also – with marketing – the goals of different campaigns can be hard to compare. That said there is some pretty convincing evidence across the board. The 2014 study by Admap, which analysed 1,500 advertising campaigns ranked creative execution as the second largest contributor to advertising profitability after market size. Nielsen’s 2017 study backed this up, showing that creative quality was most important factor in generating sales.

So how do you foster creativity?

A huge demonstration of the value of creativity is IBM’s reinvention as a design company. In 2012 it invested $100 million to hire designers, and educate 100,000 employees to become design thinkers. Over three years, in which IBM helped expand design thinking at the organization, it saw $18.6M in increased profits.

So, big business is willing to put its money where its mouth is. Of course, when we imagine a creative business, many of us think of Google and the like. It’s clear the tech giants have succeeded in creating a workplace culture of creativity.

“There are things to be learned from these companies about giving [people] time to be creative and showing that you value it as a business.”

Jonathan Bacon, Marketing Week

People work differently

It’s important to remember that people work differently, and that what helps harness one person’s creativity may not work for another person. There have been interesting studies to suggest a 4-day-week or flexible working hours could increase creativity. YouGov’s study found that 71% of respondents felt that the 4-day-week would make us happier, which would in theory increase productivity and creativity. Financial pressures may get in the way of this for small businesses – when implementing a 35-hour week in France, the government offered a subsidy to businesses to facilitate the hiring of more staff.

There is also some debate as to whether some workplace initiatives do actually increase creativity as claimed. Breakout areas, retro arcade console – sleep hubs! In an open plan office anything noisy can be detrimental to those around.  I have experienced the office foosball, which was a great team-building activity for a few weeks – but in the end just became a talking point (arguably a signpost to what the agency’s values might be) for office visitors. But then perhaps it did serve a purpose. To be fair, perhaps drubbing Gary 10–2 at lunchtime might serve him right for missing you on the drinks run.

However there are reasons why companies want to invest in these types of initiatives. The addition of plants for example, can lead to greater performance, and creativity. Of course plants have such a positive effect on the air-quality – important when you’re spending over 40 hours a week indoors. They are also part of creating a pleasant work environment – who doesn’t like looking at an attractive plant or Cacti? For the more eccentric of you (we all know a creative with a few screws loose), why not name your plant? Bob the Cactus has a nice ring to it.

A study from the University of Exeter found that when plants were brought into the office, employee performance on memory retention and other basic tests improved substantially, and overall productivity was increased by 15%.

More than work

There are also factors outside of the office that can contribute to a happy team, which in turn helps aid creativity. Although work socials can split opinions, it’s clear that workplace friendships can have a great impact. It can be useful to know your colleagues strengths and weaknesses and can lead to better communication, quality control, and even higher affinity for the company – friends help each other out!

“Women who strongly agree they have a best friend at work are more than twice as likely to be engaged (63%)…  We’ve consistently found that for women and men, having a best friend at work leads to better performance.”

Annamarie Mann, Gallup

Additionally, a company showing support for your work-life balance can also lead to greater creativity. New research suggests “Showing support for your employee’s work-life balance and giving them a chance to try more lateral things in their role have a greater impact on engagement.”

There are many studies that link creativity, productivity and happiness, and clearly they are all linked. Creative employees are more likely to be happier, which in turn helps them to be more creative and more productive. Investing into employees happiness and creativity adds to this cycle. According to Adobe’s State of Create report, businesses that invest in creativity are more likely to increase employee productivity (78%) and have happier employees (76%)

A creative culture

We try to champion creativity and do several things which we find help. A few of these include implementing ‘core-time’ from 10am til’ 12.30pm, which is quiet, focused time which you are non-interruptible (without a good reason!) This allows for us to focus, and we find this time provides room for creative thinking – which can be hard to do in a loud/busy environment. 

We are always on the lookout for great industry events to go to, these often inspire our creativity and help us to keep up to date with the latest knowledge, this can be a good excuse for a social too! 

As a member of the design department I find we often spark each other’s creativity – from bringing in examples of great print design, posting industry articles on our slack channel, or by simply skill sharing and critiquing each other’s work.

So what does creativity bring to a business

  • Financial gain
  • Brand recognition
  • Growth
  • Attractive employers
  • Happier workforce and all the benefits this comes with, such as employee retention, productivity, and more

What do we do to encourage creativity…

  • Limit distractions and disruptions
  • Maintain a positive atmosphere
  • Curate our office environment – make it a place you want to spend time in
  • Promote collaboration and social events.
  • Allow spaces away from desks for creativity, such as breakout areas
  • Provide time for ideas to ruminate, over several days or a week
  • Actively encourage creativity at all levels of the business, following through with company decisions

Final thoughts

By encouraging a creative, inventive culture within our business, I feel it not only benefits us, but more importantly it benefits our customers . We are passionate about achieving the best results in everything we do, so by continually enhancing our approach we can offer our clients better solutions to help address their business challenges. And I’m sure you’ll agree, this is something every business would like to achieve.